I downloaded a gratitude journal app recently. I was going to try this “practice” people talk about. Perhaps I would find more positivity in the world. Maybe I would “re-wire” my brain as these apps claim to do. Hmm…
After downloading the app, I also happened to read The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. Using scientific evidence, she offers quizzes to measure your happiness and pick activities that will increase your happiness over time. Guess what one of those activities was? Oh, yes. Gratitude.
People are really into this gratitude stuff and it makes perfect sense how it can help you feel better about the world. And we find the concept in lots of traditions. In Judaism, we are taught to say Modeh Ani every morning when waking up. This prayer gives thanks for “returning my soul” in the morning, essentially expressing gratitude for getting to live one more day.
Similar teachings come from many different traditions and faiths. And now science is getting in on the gratitude bandwagon. So, why is it so hard for me to actually do it? My app alerts me every morning that it’s time to “start your gratitude journey.” I’ve been ignoring these pings daily for more than a month now.
If I’m honest with myself, I can’t imagine much gratitude right now.
People being slaughtered in public spaces. Hate crimes are on the rise. California – my childhood home – is constantly on fire. Water is unclean. Mega storms keep hitting coastlines. It feels a bit like the end of days out there, doesn’t it?
It feels trivial to post my gratitude about a beautiful sunset, gorgeous fall leaves, smiling children, and delicious meals when it feels like we’re all putting our lives on the line every single day. But, I suppose that’s exactly the point. Noticing the small wonderful things in the day-to-day might make it easier to walk through a world so broken and seemingly falling apart more and more every day.
Thanksgiving is here.
I was speaking with a colleague from Canada the other day and she was sharing how mystified she was about American’s obsession with Thanksgiving, even having previously lived here for more than a decade. And my sister-in-law in England tells us that Brits can’t get it either because traditional Sunday dinner there is basically Thanksgiving every single week. It is uniquely American, I have been told.
Years ago, a friend from Jamie’s seminary came to our Thanksgiving dinner, squeezing into our little one bedroom apartment with a small group of friends. We went for a post-turkey walk to visit the Hudson River. And on our walk there and back, he marveled at this incredible holiday that was a completely religious holiday offered in a thoroughly secular way. “It’s brilliant!” he said. He was referring to the fact that everyone, regardless of belief, participated in this annual ritual that brings together family, friends, and neighbors. Each year, we prepare grand meals to remember that we live in a country of incredible abundance. We are called upon, as an entire nation, to offer gratitude for all that we have.
Thanksgiving represents the very best of what America is all about. I have witnessed people of every faith, every socio-economic background, every ethnicity, and every type of citizen (from birth to immigrant to visitor) celebrate Thanksgiving and recognize that we should be grateful. Brilliant.
Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge
Okay. Time to get on track. Maybe it’s true. Maybe if I remind myself to be grateful about leaves and kids and a great cup of coffee, maybe I’ll feel more prepared to deal with the madness that is our world today.
Is there such a thing as a Thanksgiving Resolution? If not, I’m making it a thing. I’ll start today. Today, I’m grateful for:
- 1. All of you who read this post (Hi Mom!)
- 2. An unbelievably supportive interfaith community that continues to show up and offer help in these dark days
- 3. A family I adore and who love me unconditionally
I’m going to try again to build this “practice.” One month of journaling gratitude every day. And I’m calling on my friends and family to hold me accountable. Really. Hold me to it, okay?
Ordinary Days, Meaningful Life is a labor of love geared toward working moms ready to embrace the chaos and find meaning in it. If you found this post meaningful, please share it with someone you think would enjoy it too! I’d love to stay in touch with you! Leave a comment below, contact me, or sign up for the mailing list. I can’t wait to hear from you!